Graduate Study at Carolina

Learn more about the UNC School of Media and Journalism Ph.D. and Masters Programs.

M.A. and Ph.D. students working with me pursue a range of different research projects at the intersection of media, movements, and politics. In addition to receiving the core of their conceptual and methodological training in the School of Media and Journalism, students take a range of courses in the Sociology, Political Science, and Communication Studies departments.

There are a number of opportunities for students to conduct original research outside of the M.A. thesis and Ph.D. dissertations. During the past few years, I have worked with students on an analysis of the professional careers of 629 digital, data, and analytics staffers on presidential campaigns and firm founding in the Republican and Democratic Parties (The New York Times covered it here), a five-day field observation of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina; a three month ethnographic study of the 2012 campaign to defeat the anti-gay Amendment One in North Carolina; an interview-based survey of the evolution of online political advertising over the last decade; and, an interview and public document-based analysis of new media during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Ph.D. and M.A. students are pursuing a range of projects that explore, primarily through qualitative fieldwork, how shifts in media technologies shape political processes – defined broadly.

Former Ph.D. Students

Kylah Hedding
Assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa

Kylah Hedding’s research examines how complex environmental issues with complicated policy implications are defined and debated in the public sphere, with a particular interest in the stakeholders involved, including how journalists, policymakers, interest groups and various publics understand these issues. Her research, which intersects with political communication, environmental communication, media studies, and sociology, focuses especially on the role of all forms of media in these debates. Kylah’s dissertation explores these relationships through a case study of the issue of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in North Carolina. Using content analysis, interviews, and participant observation, Kylah will examine how fracking was initially defined when it first entered the media, public, and policy agendas; who the major players are in the debate; how the debate has evolved over time; and how these factors relate to fracking legislative and regulatory policies in the state.

David Bockino
Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at Elon University

David Bockino’s research utilizes an organizational and economic approach to explore the transition between journalism education and journalism practice in both the United States and India. The core of the dissertation revolves around a panel of students that David will follow over the next two to three years, interviewing at six-month intervals, as they graduate from their respective journalism programs (University of North Carolina and the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media) and enter the working world. Much has been said about journalism’s future – this study is an attempt to understand the human element of that evolution.

Laura Meadows
Assistant Professor in the Department of Mass Communication, UNC-Asheville

Laura Meadows’s research sits at the intersection of political communication, new media, and social movements. The focus of Laura’s dissertation work is an ethnographic examination of the LGBT movement in the South through a case study of the movement in North Carolina. While the LGBT movement has accumulated a host of victories over the past year, these gains were realized almost exclusively in more liberal-leaning states, in urban centers, or by judicial decree on the federal level. However, the battlefields of the LGBT movement are necessarily being extended. Contemporary Southern LGBT activists are working to build broader and more diffuse bases of support, most notably in rural, faith, and African American communities, and to develop messaging and organizing strategies that speak to the social and cultural realities of these communities.

Current Ph.D. Students

J. Scott Brennen

J. Scott Brennen is a doctoral student working at the intersection of science and technology studies and media/journalism studies. Scott is particularly interested in studying new or novel forms of scientific journalism and media as a means to explore the scientific construction of publics. This includes interrogating the complex relationships among scientific institutions, media, publics and the state.

Masters Projects

J. Scott Brennen, M.A. Thesis (completed 2013)

The Scientific Construction of Publics: Mars One and the Language and Logic of the Civil Sphere

This case study demonstrates the ways that Mars One, the Dutch start-up company working to found the first human colony on Mars, is adopting the language and logic of the civil sphere as a means to accumulate legitimacy, financial support, and cultural capital. The civil sphere’s participatory language and performative logic facilitate Mars One’s ability both to mobilize resources and also to construct publics of support. These findings suggest the need to build on the public engagement turn in STS literature by initiating a new research program around the “scientific construction of publics” (SCOP). Such a program would locate public engagement rhetoric and exercises within the cultural structures of the civil sphere. As suggested by this study, A SCOP program would open space to provide richer and more contextualized accounts of the relationship between scientific actors and publics.

Leticia Mazon, M.A. Thesis (completed 2013)

The Party In Disservice: An Ethnographic Look at the Walter Dalton for North Carolina Governor Campaign’s Relationship with the Democratic Party

This study investigates the ways in which the Walter Dalton campaign interacted with the Democratic Party during the 2012 North Carolina gubernatorial election. The evidence gathered through field observations, limited participant-observation, and open-ended interviews reveals the candidate-party relationship to be quite complex. I provide an analysis of the relations between the Dalton campaign and the various actors within the Democratic Party, and the effects of these interactions on diverse areas of campaign communication. I contend that the contemporary party-candidate relationship is more nuanced than Aldrich (1995) suggests in his approach to the study of parties in American politics, specifically his notion of the role of parties as being “in service” to candidates.